Visit the Called to the bar site

Years ago, living in Cambridge, passing the Free Press on a sunny Saturday morning, my mate and I, noting the open door, 10.30am, popped in, with the promise of an early pint, just one, or maybe two, but as all good pub plans used to go in those long ago days, it all unravelled and we emerged, eyes blinking at the strength of the afternoon sun, at 3pm. Despite this, from then on, there emerged a love of early doors, not an obsession, but an occasional treat on a par with greeting the sunrise in June and walking through empty streets and spotting the closed curtains, the world in its temporary grave. Breakfast beer this is not, though I have come face to face with this particular phenonamena, the first time at the Six Bells brewpub in Bishops’ Castle, a visit with 11 other beer writers at 9am, a talk on mashing and fermentation expected, but heads nodding in unison as the brewer/owner Nev bellowed, ‘who’s for a breakfast beer?’.

And so, this morning, another early doors treat, en route to somewhere, and time to spare in between trains. My palate is fresh, the sun is shining and there’s an earthy, carpet-like sourness in the air of the pub into which I walk. Not unpleasant. There’s also a strain of cleaning fluid wafting through the air; a familiar aroma, of which I have a few years experience. Outside on the concourse, where the smokers often huddle conspiratorially in groups, émigrés from both the pub and the offices that tower over, imperious and insect-like in their indifference, there’s a brisk breeze and several tall banners wave and shiver in a way familiar to fans of Kurosawa’s Ran (I’m thinking the battle scenes).

‘I’m just having a second Stella, while Nan’s having a tea,’ giggles a woman draped in luridly coloured scarves, while her bare wrists shine with several bracelets. There’s a chap at the bar — a mop of hair, Ringo circa 63 just out of bed perhaps, hipster jeans, half-mast at the ankle, canvas shoes that my son and his mates wear off duty. ‘A cappuccino mate, large one, extra shot.’ The pub was quiet when I came in. It’s now beginning to fill up, voices collection and rising upwards like bees beavering away in a bush. My glass is nearly empty, a can of Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger providing an elemental and elegant shot of hops, and the train will be ready to go in a mo. Time to leave but not before remembering that early door on a sunny morning in Cambridge.